Welcome to the first week home with your new puppy! I'm going to go over what should be prioritized during this week to help you navigate life with a new pup. Keep in mind that this advice is very general and each puppy is different. Make adjustments as needed and of course, reach out if you need help!
Welcome home puppy!
When puppy first comes home, we want to take our time to not overwhelm them with too much information. We get very excited to show them all the things! It's not necessary to give a full tour of the house and invite all your friends over just yet!
When you first arrive, bring puppy to the designated potty area, whether this is indoors or outdoors, it's a good habit to start working on from the get go. You can get your puppy to go to a specific spot of your yard (or on your walk) by always going to the same corner. Which is super helpful if you have a backyard and don't want to be picking up poop all over the place.
Keep in mind that most puppies don't come home with any potty training experience. Messes are inevitable and it's important to remain patient with them. We don't want to punish them at the risk of scaring them or teaching them that it's dangerous to pee in front of us - which will make your housetraining efforts more difficult in the future!
If you want the full details on housetraining, I have an entire webinar on the subject that you can find here.
Next, bring them to their space inside where they can find their bed, food, water and toys. Allow them time and space to explore. This can be with a crate, in an exercise pen or a specific room. I encourage you to observe your puppy and encourage playing with their own toys. Play is also a great way to bond with them.
Puppy might end up roaming around the house and ideally, you have already puppy proofed that part of the house. Puppy will find all the things you missed so we want to supervised when they're free.
Overall, we want puppy to settle in and feel safe in a new place. There is no rush to work on training at this moment. Take the time to be present and bond with your puppy. Over the next few days and weeks is where you will begin training and socializing.
The first night:
Nighttime can create a little anxiety for you and for your pup. Keep in mind that sleeping arrangements can be adjusted. What you choose today doesn't have to be the set rule for the rest of their life. If you decide to let them sleep in your room, they can also eventually learn to sleep in the living room when they are older.
You may choose to use a crate for bedtime. This is an excellent way to protect your house training efforts, but also manage puppy so they don't get themselves into trouble while you are sleeping. If puppy is loose, they can easily walk around and chew your things.
The crate would be their home (and not a punishment) and I suggest making it comfortable. If it's big enough, you can include a small potty area with a pad but if this isn't appealing to you, be sure to set an alarm to bring them out during the night. Simply keep in mind that most puppies have zero experience in a crate. In fact, their whole life until this point, they slept with their mom and siblings. They have never slept alone before. If your puppy cries, it's very normal reaction but can be quite distressing. You can bring the crate closer to your bed so they feel your presence which often helps settle the puppy. If they wake up during the night, you can try to soothe them or bring them out quickly if they need to potty.
The crate is optional at night. You may choose to bed share instead (and I've always shared my bed with my dogs). Again, if at some point, bed sharing no longer works for you, your pup can learn to sleep in another space - albeit gradually but it can be done.
Bed sharing does not create behaviour problems either. Your puppy will not develop separation anxiety or protect the bed because they sleep in your bed (both these behaviour problems are often caused by genetics!) If your puppy sleeps in your bed, they might actually sleep better and wake less often. Again, this is very general and for some puppies, might do the opposite. Everything can be adjusted to fit you and your puppy's needs.
Early riser puppies:
You might have a puppy who follows your schedule from the beginning - if you're lucky. But you will probably have the typical puppy who has their own schedule and wakes up before dawn. Here are a few tips to help with this.
First, bring puppy out to potty during the night. They might get a little burst of energy afterwards but in my experience, they tend to settle rather quickly and go back to bed. If they go during the night, they might have less of a need to go first thing in the morning.
Second, keep a few toys and chews handy. When Harlow was a puppy, I kept a few of his toys under my pillow (He slept with me for the first 5 years until I had my daughter). When he would wake up too early, I would take him outside then bring out a toy for him to chew on in bed and he always ended up falling asleep soon after.
Third, don't put puppy to bed too late, like with human children, the idea of a late bedtime does not always equal a late wake up. You might end up with an extra tired puppy! Often at the end of the night, puppies can get silly. They start to run around everywhere and get extra bite-y. This is you're cue to help them settle for bedtime. Giving them a chew or encourage them to snuggle with you or in their crate can help them settle.
To resume what we want to focus on in the first 24 hours:
Establish a potty area, but don't get too wrapped up on potty training
Introduce puppy to their space with their bed, food, toys and water
Take time to bond and play with your puppy
Give them a few days to settle in before training
Bedtime routines are adjustable. Crate or bed sharing are both good choices.
- Katherine, CTC, CSAT, FFCP (trainer)